When thinking of high performance vehicles, tiny Fords don’t exactly come to mind. This isn’t a Lamborghini or a McLaren, instead, it’s something much uniquer. The Ford Cosworths, the Escort and the Sierra Cosworth were two great high performance versions of some rather bland base European Ford models. Tuned by the legendary Cosworth Engineering Company out of London, these pocket rockets were nothing to play with. The Sierra was built from 1986 to 1992, which was replaced by the Escort which ran to 1996. The Cosworth team competed in the World Rally Championships in 1993 to 1998, so you know these weren’t your run of the mill Ford Fiestas.
The Sierra Cosworth was built for one thing, and one thing only. Pure speed. The Sierra was specifically made for top speed handling and perfect aerodynamics. So, Ford stuck a huge unorthodox wing on the back, lowered the suspension a full 2 inches, and gave it nice and bouncy shocks adjusted by Cosworth. To get it to top speed, Ford Europe in Cologne popped a turbocharged 2.0 L 4-cylinder that churned out just north of 200 horsepower. Next came the Sierra RS500, which ended up getting a nice bump in power to get it up to 220 horses. This extra addition in power allowed for the top speed also to increase to a staggering 149 MPH. This, at the time was absolutely absurd for a car like that, and started to become one of the most popular car in Britain and Europe in general. So much so, that it also became Europe’s most stolen car, thanks to Detroit pulled door locks which could easily be hacked with a lock pick and a screwdriver. If you had a Cosworth, your friendly local neighborhood thief would probably have one too in due time. Playing into that popularity was its relatively cheap price for the performance you were getting. New, these Cosworths would only cost about £35,000 new, or $48,500. To add fuel to the flame, Cosworth engineers also slapped a larger intercooler, boosting horsepower all the way to 245 horsepower, which would propel the little rocket to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, still a quick figure today.
The styling followed the absurd boxy style of the late 80’s and early 90’s, but it somewhat fits. The ridiculous wing on the back only adds to its uniqueness, but in all seriousness, Ford took some drastic measures to make the Sierra into a adequate sport trim. A ton of soundproofing removed, making a 4×4 version with a whole new engine block, race brakes pulled straight from the race version of the Sierra itself, and Recaro bucket seats complete the vehicle. Although the interior was cheaply made, no one really cares when you’re spinning it around the streets of Manchester.
Sooner or later, Ford eventually retired the Sierra, and yet came out with something better. The iconic Ford Escort Cosworth, teaming up with the Brits once again, Ford went back to Cosworth for a second helping of some speed. This time, giving it AWD for better launches, and letting it pump out 227 horsepower from the get go with an upgraded intercooler, headers, and a wider and less restrictive exhaust. In addition to its rally bred features, the Escort came standard with a 5-speed manual and beefier brakes than the Sierra. It also added plenty of luxury features like a radio, leather interior, and a cassette player. A super rare sub-trim called the Monte Carlo edition was also released, adding to the collectibility.
Top speed decreased 5 MPH, lowering it to 149 MPH, thanks to that even more absurd wing on the back. It looked super futuristic but it was nevertheless crazy. 0-60 however, shot down in time, to a very impressive 4.9 seconds. Braking distance thanks to the big beefy brakes also decreased to 129 feet. The turbos also worked overtime, increasing boost from 12 to 14 psi and a massive Cosworth-engineered intercooler was also added to give it a huge boost right around 2000 RPMs.
All in all, hot hatches don’t get the respect they deserve here in the States, but in Europe they rule the roads. The Cosworths were ahead of their generation, feeling futuristic at times, and are probably one of my favorite vehicles that never came to the United States.The Cosworths have stood the test of time, and they’re legal to import to the United States as well. Here we stand, with engines once again getting smaller and smaller, but we tend to forget about a car that made the best of what it had.